The Power Of Off: The Mindful Way To Stay Sane In A Virtual World, by Nancy Colier
It is to be regretted that so many book which urge for mental health come with a New Age spin. Indeed, it is often difficult for me to understand the appeal of New Age thinking. What is it about Buddhism, with its obviously ridiculous love of paradoxes and its immense nihilism and in its frankly goofy theology is appealing to people who view themselves as wise and discerning? Certainly there is nothing in either mainstream Buddhism or its more casual American New Age offshoots that is appealing when one compares it to the bracing truth of biblical Christianity. Even so, this book is not useless and the author indeed has a great many points to make about those of us (myself included) who are a bit too attached to our technology, be it the devices themselves as well as the connectivity to the internet and that world of strangers that we use these devices for. If this book is not one I can wholeheartedly recommend, it is one that at least has some useful things to say and that is worthwhile enough.
This book is a relatively short one at just over 200 pages but it is divided into six parts and 44 small chapters that appear to be designed for a reading audience with all too short of an attention span. For example, the author begins the book with a search for a foundation in a virtual world and then spends nine chapters talking about our relationship with technology, which she views as an enslaving sort of relationship (I). After that the author provides thirteen chapters that look at how technology affects our relationships with others, including friends and family members (II). After this the author provides seven chapters that look at our relationship with ourselves (III) and even posit that technology may be stealing our lives like some sort of soul-sucking vampiric devices. There are then five chapters on how we can create space inside and out for our lives to have parts without the effects of technology (IV). Four short chapters deal with how we can liberate ourselves from a teched-out mind (V), after which the book provides six chapters on how one can practice mindfulness in the digital age, as if one would want to in the first place (VI), after which there is an epilogue about freedom, acknowledgements, an appendix that contains a 30 day tech-detox, notes, and some information about the author.
Even if one has no interest in yoga or the author’s New Age bologna, there are still useful aspects to devoting at least some times in life where one is unplugged and can enjoy life and what can be found in one’s surroundings or one’s company. That said, those who can disconnect from their electronic devices long enough to appreciate a book like this are not likely to be the most tragic cases of technology addicts that one can find. For someone willing to read a book about the power of off is likely to be a person who can at least sometimes turn off the devices long enough to read a book and to think about what it has to say. It does not mean that we are free from the influence of technology and the way that it has given us shorter attention spans, but it does mean that we have within us at least some interests that can counter-act these tendencies to rely too much on technology. And that is itself something that is worthwhile and ought to be respected, and something the author does not really appear to recognize as well, the way in which authors like this often preach to the choir without intending to.